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Adoption: A Women's issue


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Chain of Life

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Adoption: A Women's issue

  1. 1. T Within the sanctions of holy matrimony, pregnancy is a blessed and joyous event, to be celebrated when it occurs and mourned when it does not. Joss Shawyer, feminist and founder of the "Council for the Single Mother and Her Child" in Aukland, New Zealand, writes: The few single mothers I have known who survived pregnancy with their babies and person undamaged wore wedding rings when booking into ante-natal clinics. Inventing fictitious. legitimately absent husbands (sail- ors are convenient), they enjoyed being fussed over by hospital staff whose only concern was that hubby couldn1 be there to share in the joyous experience. Adoption was never mentioned and they met no social workers, who were busy elsewhere routinely interviewing the 'unmarried' mothers. 2 ADOPTION: A WOMEN'S ISSUE;.;I/ . -, BY MARSHA RIB EN (.. ,to. ~Adoption is a women's issue. :, )Attend any search and support group for ", adoptees or birth parents in this country, and you will find the same thing: women outnumber men ten to one. For whatever reasons we wish to speculate, female adoptees and birth parents are obviously more curious, concerned and interested in finding their iost counterpans than are males. In terms of birth parenthood, it is clear why women would be more affected and therefore carry a more continued interest than men. For men pregnancy is merely speculation, while for women it is a very tangible fact of life that can no more be forgotten than it can be ignored. Conception has always been a women's issue and a women's problem, regardless of the fact that until recently it required the physical presence (if not cooperation) of a male partner. No fertile woman is ever safe from the possibility of unintended pregnancy since there is no method of contraception that is one hundred percent reliable. Even abstinence has its failures since rape exists. Pregnancy and birth become even more of a women's issue for the single mother. Women must take an active rather than a passive role in order to abolish the pregnancy. They cannot ignore it, block it out, deny its existence or their contribution to it, or walk away from it. There are choices and decisions to be made and whatever she chooses, a woman's life -- from the moment of first conception -- will never again be the same as it was before, no matter how the pregnancy ends. Adoption is often one of the options offered to a single mother. She must decide: abort, adopt out, raise, marry, remain single. For scme, these choices -- difficult as they each may be -- are the woman's to make. For many, age, inv.iita: ::;tv.tus, cd:..:~~1!c:1, ,;md f1!12:!C'!a! ~e~n~ limit the choices drastically. We live in a society that still, despite the inroads of the feminist movement, exploits and victimizes its women. We live in a society that was founded on the principal that women and children are the property of men. In a male-dominated society, a woman's expression of sexuality is permitted only within strict bounds. Only when she is married, and thus an appendage of a man, is sexual activity considered legitimate for her and accepted; indeed, it is expected at a husband's whim as his right. Those women who are sexually active before or outside of marriage, though, and that includes the majority of young women, risk severe pun- ishment if they become pregnant. In America that pounishment is adoption. 1 It is estimated that some five to nine' million women in this country have suffered the loss of one or more children to the exploitation of adoption. This is an ongoing practice and one that has not ended. While it is true that fewer women today are faced with an unplanned, full term pregnancy, the pressure on women to surrender is every bit as strong (if not stronger) today as it has been for the past several decades. This is because of the increase in infertility and the decrease in babies available for adoption due to advances in bi~h control and the availabilitv of abortion. There are new vocabularies to sugarcoat the pill and presumably make it more pallitable. Social workers are being urged to say "make an adoption plan" rather than "surrender" or "give up your child for adoption." And while anonymity and confidentiality were the hot selling points of the '60s, "open adoption" is the gimmick of the '80s. Open adoption is promoted as a way to have the best of both worlds -- to be a Sunday parent. One can have the peace of knowing one's child, obtaining photos, perhaps even visiting in rare instances, without the daily "chore," responsi- bilities, and limitations of parenting. Just as we have learned twenty years after the fact that the women who surrendered in the '60s and were promised that they would "forget" and have "new lives" often did not, so too will future birth mothers discover that pictures do not replace the loss of the parenting experience, which has now been documented to be the major cause of the birth- mother's ongoing grief. Though better than lies and secrecy, such openness will not alleviate the . . . future birthmothers will discover that pictures do not replace the loss of the parenting experzence .&. CHAIN OF LIFE, P.O. BOX 8081, BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA 94707.&.
  2. 2. adoptees' inevitable feelings of rejection and, in some cases, anger. What can we do to put an end to this aspect of the victimization of our sisters? We can start by saying that a woman and her baby represent a basic family unit and that the strength of our nation lies in the strength of our families. Every adoption, no matter how good, begins with a tragedy. Every family that is formed or grows through adoption represents another that has failed to receive the financial and ernotional support it needs to remain together. We must now fight to prevent a con- tinuation of the same destruction of the next generation through family separation. We can do more than speak about it. We can use the rights that we have fought so hard to obtain: the right to petition, the right to vote. We are living under a current administration that is pro-adoption; a self- righteous, religious, conservative, "pro-life" admin- istration that sees adoption as a practice that needs to be promoted among our pregnant teens, while it shuns sex education in the schools, the dissemination of birth control without parental consent, and other preventative measures. Instead of seeing public assistance as the duty of a society to help support its cast-out women and children, our legislators see the poor as lazy, not as victims of circumstance often in need of temporary assis- tancp. rather than a permanent solution like adoption. We must not allow women to continue to be used as brood stock to provide babies for the wealthy and married. Just as society condemns unmarried pregnant women, it puts pressure on married women to have children. We must not permit either. A woman's desire and right to have children or not must remain seoarate from her marital status. Women who want children but have lost their ability to function reproductively -- because of delaying childbearing, prolonged use of birth control, abor- tions and/or venereal disease -- are no more deserving to be a parent than their pregnant sisters who perhaps simply lacked their sophistication or luck. Adopfion, like so many other areas of exploitation and persecution, boils down quite simply to a matter of dollars and cents, the exploi- tation of rich over poor. In the American jungle, it is the s~rvival of the richest. We must put an end to the marketing of women and children as commodities bought and sold, like dcgs and used cars, on the streets and in the newspaper ads of our country.. Marsha Riben is author of the book Shedding Light on . . . the Dark Side of Adoption, available from Mirage, 268-2 Pleasant Valley Road, Old Bridge, New Jersey 08857 for $12.95 plus $1. shipping. 1Anderson, Carole. "Eternal Punishment of Women: Adoption Abuse," Concerned United Birthparents, 2000 Walker St., Des Moines, Iowa50317 2 Shawyer, Joss. Death by Adoption, Cicada Press. 1979